Health Reporting Misadventures: My Mom, the Private Detective, Trolling for Alligators in Florida, Calm in a Prison Garden

Published on
March 25, 2011

The other day, Reporting on Health asked its friends to share stories about their best health journalism adventures and misadventures. 

We made it a contest on our own ReportingonHealth Facebook page and offered prizes of a $50 itunes card (1st prize) and In Pantagonia, Bruce Chatwin's adventure saga (2nd Prize).

We ended up selecting three winners. Mark Taylor, an Indiana-based health journalist and former fellow wins first prize for his charming tale about his mother's emergency assist on a story. A close runner-up, Laurie Udesky, had a tale of wading through a Florida swamp teeming with alligators. Noelle Robbins wrote a haiku-llike entry about feeling the calm in a San Quentin prison garden. 

It's not too late to share your health journalism adventures by commenting on this post.

Here are the winning entires:

Mark Taylor: My Mom, The Private Dick

I was chasing crooked chiropractors for a series. The state's top-Medicaid billing chiropractors worked here and were charging millions for unnecessary treatments on kids. A woman with a familiar voice called speaking in hushed tones.

"Mark," she whispered.

"Mom?" I asked.

"I'm calling from the Dunkin' Donuts near that chiropractor's office. You told me if I ever spotted any buses I should phone."

"But why are you whispering?"

"They always whisper when they calls in tips on "Murder, She Wrote."

Laurie Udesky:  Trolling for Alligators in a Florida Swamp

I would say that there were moments when I thought to myself, maybe it's not such a great idea that I went out with a group of scientists studying environmental effects on alligator health. One was when I was paired up with a scientist and a boat dropped us off in the middle of a swamp teeming with alligators. While I stood by knee deep in the marshy water, the scientist scanned the circumference for the mother alligator while he raided her nest of eggs to take back to the lab.

Noelle Robbins: Finding calm in a Prison Garden

San Quentin Prison: Ominous, scary, great opportunity. Go behind bars; visit organic garden run by inmates. Serious offenders relate Buddhist philosophy to emotional & spiritual health: Managing behavior, cooperating across ethnic lines, lessons for the outside world.

Surrounded by criminals, touring their garden , reporting for SF Chronicle, feeling peaceful, safe. Calm that lingered for days. Crazy, huh?